Cold Medicine Crackdown

Making law-abiding citizens register their Sudafed as if it's a weapon of mass destruction isn't going to help reduce use of illegal drugs.
The aggressive proposal to rid Hawaii of illegal drugs released Jan. 18 by Lt. Gov. James R. "Duke" Aiona, Jr. and his 90-member task force includes a series of initiatives the Lingle-Aiona administration will propose to the Legislature for the 2005 session.

While most of the proposal sounds plausible, there is at least one idea that is outrageous, and without a doubt, makes government more invasive in the lives of Hawaii citizens and visitors, and less credible in the fight against illegal drug use.

That idea? Control the sale of drugs and equipment used to make illegal drugs by limiting the retail sale of over-the-counter drugs that can be used to manufacture crystal methamphetamine or "ice," including drugs containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.

That means visitors and residents with a cold or allergy wanting to buy such products as Sudafed, would have to register their purchase with the pharmacist, and ultimately, the government. Kind of like the bad "big brother is watching" portions of the Patriot Act all rolled into one Sudafed box.

While the lieutenant governor says the purchase of these products to create illegal drugs has become a big problem in Hawaii, previous statements by U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo, the highest law enforcement officer in Hawaii, contradict Aiona's statements. Kubo says more than 95 percent of "ice" is manufactured overseas, specifically in Mexico, and then smuggled into Hawaii, rather than made here.

So making law-abiding citizens register their Sudafed like it is a weapon of mass destruction, or for that matter, a firearm, isn't going to help much.

And how far does this infringement on the public's rights have to go? Will the public be forced to take a class on Sudafed safety before registration? Will the Sudafed-armed public be forced to lock up their Longs-bought products at night so they cannot be used inappropriately? Will Sudafed users be forced to carry permits with them at all times or face jail?

The bottom line is like weapons, criminals can always get their Sudafed, Actifed or other meds on the black market or get other people to buy for them. Just look at how intricate the money laundering schemes are here in Hawaii to some politicians who want businesses to "pay to play" for contracts, permitting, zoning and concession rights. The politicians and business owners who scam millions of dollars illegally into campaign funds most certainly can figure out ways to get their intricate web of friends, associates, coworkers, employees and others to buy Sudafed for them.

And what is the ultimate result of such mandates on the stuffy public?

Sudafed users – whether their purpose is to clear their heads or not – possibly can become criminals or targets of criminal investigations for buying the decongestion medicine.

The government will potentially create a black market for Sudafed and other such products.

And most harmful of all, the privacy of citizens is potentially compromised, including their right to keep their medical history private, essentially eroding their faith in government a little more.

How about rather than asking the public to declare how often, and by which method, they clear their nose, mandating all elected officials to take unscheduled mandatory drug tests. That drug test would determine who in government is really fit to make decisions on drug policy.

And the good news for law abiding citizens tired of government invasion in their lives – government leaders would be so busy avoiding poppy seed muffins and taking aim to pee in a cup, they wouldn't have time to count the public's Sudafed tablets.
Malia Zimmerman is editor of Hawaii Reporter.
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